Japan Procter & Gamble’s racialized laundry detergent ad: “Cinderella and the Nose Ballroom Dance”

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Hi Blog.  Readers VW and TO have just submitted the following ad campaign from P&G Japan (as in Procter & Gamble), with the following comment:

==================================
Dear Dr. Arudou, Thank you for your continued work raising awareness on issues of race here in Japan.

Have you seen this latest ad campaign for Bold detergent?

Full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjFsvkm7pws
Campaign website: http://boldbutoukai.com/

There’s also a mini, 20 second ad on YouTube that is being promoted right now when people load other, unrelated videos (which is how I ran across this). I hope it may be of interest to you or your readers.
==================================

Thank you. First, let’s embed the ad with stills:

Synopsis: In a 3 1/2-minute retelling of the Cinderella story, a flower-sniffing Prince Charming announces to his Queen mother that he wants to find a woman to be his bride (hanayome).

P&GPrinceQueenestablishshot

This announcement is sent throughout the land that there will be a royal ball (butoukai) to accomplish this, and a message arrives at Cinderella’s home, where she expresses a wish to go.

P&Gcinderellaopening

But her nasty stepsisters and stepmother saddle her with a heap of laundry (done in a modern Japanese-style washing machine) and go instead.

P&Gcinderellawashingmachine

Fortunately, the Fairy Godmother comes by with Bold detergent in a gel form, which enables her not only to escape the drudgery and go to the ball, but also become perfumed, in a way that makes her nose grow longer and twitchy.

P&GCinderellanosetwitch P&GCinderellanoserainbow

Cut to the evening gala, where all the women are trying to make their noses longer.

P&Gnoselengthen3 P&Gnoselengthen2 P&Gnoselengthen1

When Prince Charming asks why, she says that PC wanted a nose (hana) ball. No, says PC, he was referring to flowers (hana).

P&Gprincecharmingflower

No matter, in walks Cinderella, and her fragrant clothes entrance the Prince and make their noses mutually longer and flappier.

P&Gprincecharmingnosegrow

P&Gcinderellaprincecharmingdance

They have their flappy nose dance until midnight, when suddenly she has to leave (no carriage, but a mama-chari bicycle).  But she leaves behind a fragrant article of clothing which the Prince finds and flaps his nose at.

P&Gprincecharmingbeforesniff P&Gprincecharmingaftersniff

At the end of the ad, the Prince commands his kingdom to “Find Cinderella!!” And now the viewer is left with the question: “Is this a chance for you also to become Cinderella!?”

P&Gfindcinderella

And an accented voiceover tells the viewer to go to P&G’s website for more (complete with exaggerated “Western” facial features, and a Cinderella with a flappy nose).

P&Gcinderellawebsitecampaign

COMMENT:  It’s a clever ad.  Procter & Gamble Japan clearly spent a lot of money on it, with elaborate costumes and many extras, all very milk-white and European, and most quite well trained (especially the Queen) in speaking phonetic Japanese without obnoxious katakana subtitles (Cinderella herself speaks without accent, although the transitional voice-overs have a Japanese native narrator speaking in a foreignized accent).  And the reason I say it’s clever is because it’s making clever puns with flower/nose and retelling the old tale quite afresh (the product itself is very much subsumed to the plot-line).

But it’s still a racialized telling of the tale, what with those damned elongated and flappy noses.  Debito.org has brought up other examples of racialized marketing in Japan (see archive at http://www.debito.org/?p=12077), particularly in terms of nose imagery, and how obnoxious it can get:

nagasakitabinetto ANAHanedabignose vibesumadara3 toshiba2013suipanda6 toshiba2013suipanda1 MandomAd2 gaijinmask082112 090813mrjamesfull

After ANA airlines got pretty badly stung for its “change the image of Japan” (into a long-nosed Caucasian Robert Redford lookalike) ad earlier this year, Toshiba got slapped for their racialized bread maker ad (see here), and McDonald’s Japan faced enough pressure that they terminated their “Mr. James” burger campaign early, one wonders whether Japan’s advertisers will ever learn their lesson that grounding their product in racialized stereotypes is pretty bad form.

Imagine if you will some overseas company marketing an “Asian” product that was so delicious, it made your incisors go all “Asian buck teeth” reaching out to eat it?  No doubt Japan’s patrol of internet PC police would soon start howling racism and lobbying the company (and Japan’s missions abroad) to send out protests and orders to withdraw the ad campaign.  People making fun of Asian “slanted eyes” has been criticized before, and withdrawn with apologies.

So what about this?  What do Debito.org Readers think?  Do you think Procter & Gamble HQ in the US would approve of this?

Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

28 comments on “Japan Procter & Gamble’s racialized laundry detergent ad: “Cinderella and the Nose Ballroom Dance”

  • Don’t worry everyone!
    I’m sure that Eido will give P&G a ring and explain that us NJ are getting upset about thier racist advert, and he’ll advise them to replace it with one that can’t be misconstrued as racist, even the whole thing is ‘clearly’ a ‘misunderstanding’, what with P&G being a Japanese company and all.

    Oh! Hang on.,,,P&G isn’t Japanese! Apologism fails, I predict.

    Reply
  • Do you think Proctor & Gamble HQ in the US would approve of this?

    I think that once they learn about what just got released in Japan in their name, they might feel the need to make some staff adjustments in Japan…

    Reply
  • Also, typo spotted in the last sentence I just quoted (and the title) – it’s “ProctEr”, not “ProctOr”

    — Duly noted. Sorry. Corrections made.

    Reply
  • This was developed by, and intended for the Japanese market.
    As so many examples are cited on this page, this is a recurring theme.
    So what is it in current Japanese society that makes so many marketing managers think that this is a good idea?
    Between the elongated noses and (stereo-typically) thick accents, these ads are getting increasingly more difficult to stomach.

    Thanks for informing. But I don’t see this changing soon (unless P & G headquarters orders the ad pulled).

    Reply
  • Each and every time this happens, it shows the necessity for Dr. D. to keep with it.
    Until there is comprehensive and sensibly written anti-discrimation legislation here, these things will keep on happening.

    They will keep on happening because it’s fine for Japanese people to be racist and discriminatory along the following canards.

    1. We are Japanese, you don’t understand. We are not being racist. It’s a cultural misunderstanding, or an innocent mistake.
    2. Because you are not Japanese, how can you understand this. Don’t judge us by your standards.
    3. Oh well if you are so unhappy, why don’t you go “home.”

    So there is a refusal that there is a problem. Since there is no problem, there is no need for legislation.
    If a washing powder company (part of a global conglomerate whose ethics extend to massive price fixing and cartel running, for which it has received 100 million dollar fines) chooses to launch a racist advert in Japan the only avenue is protest, it seems?

    Unless someone watches the advertisement out of Japan and sues from another country?

    More power to you, Dr. D!

    Reply
  • You’d think after all the time they devote to harping on about America’s race relations situations in schools that people here would know that racial caricatures are something to be avoided but apparently that just isn’t the case at all… woops, time for me to go judge another speech contest with 50 students all doing the same “I have a dream” speech yet totally missing how it could apply to life in Japan. Better run!

    Reply
  • Loverilakkuma says:

    The absurdity of racial epithet in the P&G ad is way beyond my anger. It reaches to the level of dumb and dumber. Regarding the Lawson’s ad, I find it even more shocking with the texts, such as the words “gekisha”(激写) and “uttekudasai” (撃って下さい!). It strikes a symbolic image of violence created by technology (e.g., camera) for the sake of visual stimuli that will bring in pleasure of cultural consumption to the people who have little or no sense of guilt for it—including race, ethnicity, cultural superiority… The ad and filmmakers will never know, or even think about the masculinity of technological intervention and its impact on the site that is being seen and monitored by lay cameramen and ignorant TV crew. It makes me feel appalled.

    Reply
  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    I wonder if the fact that a coffee manufacturer had SMAP doing the big nose thing (without any blatant recialization) http://youtu.be/w0ZNVoXiNPw and decided that the waters were safe. But then again, this is the same company that gave us the instantly annoying white Mrs. Yamada back in 2011 and has barely moved on.

    Reply
  • @14 it only lacks blatant racialization if you look at it through a non-Asian lens. In Japan, big noses = (European) foreigner, the same way huge lips are a caricature black people in America. It is all but guaranteed that 99% of the population if asked about the noses there would say they look ‘foreign’.

    Reply
  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    Welp @15
    Oh, don’t get me wrong. I found the coffee ad annoying and offensive, but without that poke at ethnicity I had nothing tangible to hang my complaints on.

    Reply
  • P&G used to have a major office in Kobe. While it still does, last time I checked, P&G’s main office is in Singapore. A Japanese person I know used to work at the Singapore branch, and she was assisting in commercial development for a shampoo product to be aired in Japan. With that being said, it is quite likely that this Cinderella commercial had been seen and approved of by management in other countries before being aired in Japan. It is quite unlikely that the oversight for this commercial was exclusively done by Japanese, and there is a high likelyhood that there were international components to the project.

    Reply
  • I don’t understand why these advertisers are so obsessed with depicting caucasian noses as comically huge considering in anime and manga western characters are shown as looking the same as asian characters. Guess this just another way of separating “us” from “them”.

    Reply
  • As with many images, I think these tend to work on the psyche in multiple ways. In addition to racialization, I think that sexualization (that it, use of the nose as a phallic symbol) is also at play. In fact, the two may go together (i.e. combination of notions of gaijin sexuality with a phallic symbol and the bad accents, etc.). Personally, I find it rather grotesque so, putting racism aside, I’m a bit surprised that Japanese viewers would find these images appealing or cute.

    Reply
  • I sent an email to PnG and this was their response.

    ‘Thanks for contacting P&G, Mathew.

    We appreciate your taking the time to get in touch, and I’m sorry you’re disappointed with our P&G detergent ad from Japan. Please know we thoroughly test our advertising with a broad group of consumers before airing in the hope that our ads are relevant and will be well liked. We recognize this is a matter of personal sensitivity and opinion; I want to assure you I’m sharing how you feel with the appropriate people in our company.

    Thanks again for reaching out.

    Maureen
    P&G Team’

    — Thanks for looking into this and getting back to us, matty b.

    So that’s that then, it would seem. P&G HQ is excusing it away. And I strongly doubt that P&G Japan’s “broad group of consumers” surveyed was broad enough to include any NJ or other minorities. I guess minorities in Japan aren’t a market they’re concerned with.

    Reply
  • i thought it was slightly obvious how they were writing me off by stating that my comments about racist charicatures were of ‘personsal sensitivity’. lolz. aholes.

    Reply
  • Wouldn’t it be better to inform Western media about these ad campaigns instead of having to endure being condescended to by some PR hack? These campaigns are now frequent enough to recognize a theme in Japanese-oriented advertising, so it would be possible to create a nice little portfolio (or simply send them to Debito’s page) which could be of interest to journalists.
    I personally have sent a couple of things to the better German new outlets (I looked up the names of journalists frequently dealing with Japan and got their Twitter handle. They all were very interested in this stuff, especially as “Japan’s right-turn” is already an established talking point in our media).

    I’ll for now make sure to avoid P&G products, which isn’t the easiest thing to do, but possible.

    Reply
  • Louis Carlet says:

    1. It misrepresents Western culture which shuns large noses (Cyrano, Pinocchio, clowns, etc.).

    2. At the end of the ad the prince demands his subjects find the woman with the scent on the scarf. That means he should be equally in love with the evil step-sisters since Cinderella washed their clothes using the same detergent.
    The prince is in love with the detergent not Cinderella. The detergent’s scent is so strong it obviously hides Cinderella’s scent, meaning the story lacks even the level of animal magnetism that would have the prince fall in love with her real scent.
    In fact once he realizes it’s the soap not the woman, the prince would do better to find a more – how can we say this – “politically convenient” partner and make sure the servants use the right detergent when washing HER clothes.
    Quite a step down from the original glass slipper, which would and could fit one and only one woman in all the kingdom and suggests both the fragility and transparency of Cinderella’s sole/soul.
    In that original she left behind a symbolic part of herself rather than a part of a commercial product.
    The wiggling, wagging noses are gross.

    3. One final point. It’s one thing for a great detergent to make princes fall in love with your scent. It’s quite another for the soap to make your laundry machine operate faster so you can make it to the ball on time.

    4. I don’t see why the prince looks for Cinderella. He has her scarf. Why not investigate what detergent was used and buy the detergent? Detergents don’t talk back. They don’t tell you to take out the garbage or that you spend too much money on taxis to collective bargaining sessions even though you’re exhausted from a day full of labor consultations and union infighting and, wait what was I talking about?

    Reply

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